Saving the Bay doesn’t require a sucker punch

San Mateo Daily Journal
March 7, 2008

Saving the Bay doesn’t require a sucker punch


Redwood City may have a history of bold development decisions, but the city’s leadership is moving forward with a new concept of receptiveness and collaboration in response to resident concerns.

In Mayor Rosanne Foust’s State of the City address earlier this year, she outlined the “us versus them” mentality she would like to erase through increased communication. This was a lesson learned years ago when the city withstood the arsenal of Measure Q, a citizen-driven initiative that torpedoed Marina Shores, a plan to develop 12-story high-rises on the Bayshore. The last election seemed to prove the citizenry was comfortable with the current council since every incumbent was soundly delivered back to office.

Foust — and her colleagues on the City Council — are at the forefront of a public planning process in which the public will be intimately involved in any proposal for the 1,400 acres at the Cargill saltponds. The owners of the property are in the midst of a public relations campaign in which they are trying to convince residents that perhaps as much as half of the property could be developed and the other half could be retained and restored as open space. It’s been two years since that process began and the developers have yet to come up with a final plan.

Just yesterday, the nonprofit Save the Bay introduced its intention to introduce an initiative for the November ballot that would ultimately limit the city’s regulatory power over its open space. If passed, any development dealing with open space would have to go to the voters. That may mean that a renovation to the senior center would have to go before voters since the senior center is in a park. It may mean one more level of regulation the city’s leadership may not need.

The city should have listened more to the community when it came to Marina Shores. But every councilmember who voted for the project was re-elected. Why? Because they listen. And they learn. Clearly, the city understands the level of concern when it comes to developing land on the Bayshore. That is evident to anyone paying attention.

And Foust deserves some credit for trying to bring everyone into the city’s big tent. She is tired of the “us versus them” mentality and wants to make sure everyone feels included in the process. To have Save the Bay only let her know of the press conference announcing the initiative just under an hour and half before it took place is disrespectful considering the amount of effort she and other members of the City Council have made in outreach to every portion of the community.

At the Daily Journal, we have made it clear we are proponents of saving as much of the Bay as possible, but we are also a proponent of industrious thought. We have made it clear that no proposal that develops more than 25 percent of the Cargill Saltponds is worth consideration. We have also made it clear that there is a need for additional housing on the Peninsula and if it can pay for more than 75 percent of the land’s restoration, it may be worth consideration.

But hamstringing the publicly-elected council making significant effort to be open and receptive to the public’s wants and needs with an initiative to limit its power is a poor political move at this stage of the game. Let’s at least see what the plans for this site are before such dramatic action.

Open communication is always better than a sucker punch.

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